Five Techniques for Managing Stress
At HAVN Life, we believe in people and their potential. We envision a world where everyone is operating at peak mental performance, free from the stresses and imbalances that hold us back. Our mission is to use evidence-informed research to unlock human performance and empower people to achieve their full potential.
In this blog, we’ll share five techniques for managing stress, no matter what you may be tackling throughout the day.
Know the activities that nourish you
Only you have the power to decide what matters to you and what gives you fulfillment. In your journal or on a piece of paper, make a list of all the activities you’ve done in the past day.
Think about the activities you just listed and think about whether or not you find each activity nourishing. Visualizing how much you spend your day in different ways can help you understand what’s really valuable to you and focus your energy there. Of those activities, make two lists that note what nourishes you, and what depletes you. If there are quite a few things that depleted you, consider finding ways to eliminate them or adjust how you do them or view them.
This nourishment practice is a great technique for managing stress because it helps you to take stock of the little things. Taking inventory of the small things you do can make a huge difference in how you not only view them but also how you get through the day!
Five senses exercise
This is a simple, versatile way to evoke a mindful state wherever you are, and it’s promoted by Anxiety Canada and the health departments of several universities. The goal of this exercise is to practice being aware in the present moment throughout the day, even when you’re doing ordinary tasks like running errands.
- Notice five things that you can see.
Cast your eyes around and bring your attention to five things you might not normally notice. Choose something you wouldn’t ordinarily pay attention to, like a shadow or a small crack in the concrete.
- Notice four things that you can feel.
Bring your awareness to four things you are currently feeling, like the texture of your pants, the feeling of the breeze on your skin, or the smooth surface of a table you are resting your hands on.
- Notice three things that you can hear.
Try to tune in to the sounds of your surroundings. What can you hear in the background? This might be a bird singing, the low hum of the refrigerator, or the faint sounds of traffic from a nearby road.
- Notice two things that you can smell.
Tune your senses into smells you might usually gloss over, whether they’re pleasant or unpleasant. Perhaps the breeze is carrying the scent of pine trees if you’re outside, or the smell of a cafe from the sidewalk.
- Notice one thing that you can taste.
Focus on one thing you can taste right now, at this moment. You can take a sip of coffee, savor some chocolate, eat something, notice the current taste in your mouth, or even open it to search the air for a taste.
These two techniques for managing stress help you to prevent the onset of stress in your life.
It’s common to struggle with procrastination, whether it’s related to work or your personal life. We all know how stressful it can be when it feels like we’re behind on important tasks. By structuring—or restructuring—your routines, you can be more productive.
Over 100 studies provide evidence that each decision we make throughout the day drains our mental energy and willpower and that our brains are hard-wired to keep us thinking about unfinished tasks until they’re complete. Research from Harvard looked at how positive momentum linked to inner work happiness and came up with the idea of the “progress principle.” Progress or setbacks were responsible for causing “best days” or “worst days” among the participants.
In a journal, try listing out everything you need to do this week. On the next page, assign the tasks to group A, B, or C based on how important they are. Then, move through the tasks in order, crossing them out after you’ve finished.
Starting with a clear, prioritized to-do list cuts down on the number of decisions you have to make early in the day, freeing up self-control for moving the most important projects forward. It also helps you to decrease your sense of overwhelm and remember what on your “to-do” list is really a priority.
Start and end of work rituals
As valuable as routines can be, they can sometimes make us feel “stuck.” In our increasingly fast-paced world, many people have a hard time separating “work” from “life.” Studies show distinctly separating between thoughts and work helps you to prevent burnout and protects your well-being.
Try creating a “start of work” and “end of work” ritual to help divide your time more clearly and bring more awareness to your day. It could be as simple as closing your eyes for a moment, or as silly as standing on your head.
Get creative, and brainstorm in your journal.
The ABC exercise and start and end of work rituals are two techniques for managing stress that help you perform optimally, no matter what may be going on in your busy life.
A neuroscientist at the University of South Carolina found links between gratitude and brain structures tied to stress relief, reward, and social bonding. Other studies have supported this, revealing connections between feelings of gratitude and oxytocin, the chemical that promotes social ties.
Take a few minutes and think about what you are grateful for today. It can be something big or small—from sleeping in, to a teacher who inspired you.
Get specific about why you’re grateful and try to set aside a few time windows each week to journal about your gratitude reflection.
Bringing these things to mind on a regular basis can help reduce stress and improve your mood.
Feel free to write about anything for which you are grateful. Here are some sample prompts to help you get started:
- Someone who I admire:
- The best part about today…
- Something beautiful I saw…
- An act of kindness I witnessed or received...
- Someone I can always rely on:
- An unexpected good thing that happened...
Research has also found feeling grateful is associated with better sleep, general well-being, and reduced depression. So gratitude is good for the body!
The gratitude tracker technique for managing stress helps you recognize what’s positive in your life and prevent the onset of stress and other physical, mental, and emotional illnesses.
Hopefully, you have learned some valuable lessons from this blog. We encourage you to continue to practice these exercises and techniques for managing stress on your own. Building a routine that works for YOU can take time, but the benefits are immense.
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This is only the beginning of your journey towards mindfulness, health, and happiness. Be sure to contact us or tag us on social media @yourhavnlife about how these techniques for managing stress have worked for you.